How do you pick the kind of oil you use when you get your oil changed?
Do you base your decision on price, or is there a reason you choose a specific product?
The list at most oil change stations ranges from basic conventional products on the low end to high-performance full synthetic oil options at the top. There seems to be a difference in quality, but for many drivers, the product they pick often comes down to the most expensive one they can afford.
It sounds like a reasonable strategy, but if you don’t know the differences between conventional, synthetic, and synthetic blend oil, you may be spending money on the wrong product. We’ll explore the main benefits of these three oil varieties so you can make the best choice when your next 5,000 miles are up.
Full Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil is a lubricant made from refined crude oil that is broken down and reformed into a chemically engineered substance. The final product is much more refined than conventional motor oil.
The oil molecules that develop from the synthesis are uniform in size and shape, whereas unprocessed conventional oil molecules have a wide variation. Consistent molecule size means less friction. And with the synthesis process removing natural deposits, oil is designed to offer long-lasting performance.
The automotive industry has made a determined shift to fully synthetic oils because of their superior performance under most conditions.
Is Synthetic Oil Better?
Fully synthetic oil is a completely engineered product, so manufacturers can shape it to perform exactly how they want. Synthetics use one or a combination of synthetic base stocks that are created to have certain properties, such as:
- High chemical stability
- Temperature-stable viscosity
- Wear resistance
- Oxidation stability
Base oils have a rating between Group I-V, with Group V including the highest-grade products. Because they are designed to have specific automotive benefits, synthetic base oils will fall between Groups III-V, while unprocessed crude oil takes up Groups I-II.
Like conventional oil, powder additives are layered in to give the oil another powerful performance boost. The combinations of base stocks and additives give manufacturers a wide array of formulations that all affect performance in different ways. For instance, some additives will help in low temperatures while others will provide more engine cleaning power or better lubrication.
Compared to conventional oil, synthetics deliver several advantages:
- Less likely to rust or corrode engine parts
- Harder to break down
- Reduced deposit buildup and engine sludge
- Lower friction
- Better performance in extreme temperatures
- Added engine cleaning and protection properties
All of these benefits equal a longer lifespan for both your engine and your oil. The standard time between an oil change used to be 3,000 miles. But with better synthetic oil technology, modern vehicles can now go 7,500 to over 10,000 miles before needing service.
Conventional oil uses refined crude oil as a base stock. Like synthetic oils, conventional oil includes specific additives to enhance performance and reduce wear. These additives help improve stability, reduce oxidation and acidification, and keep the engine clean.
Compared to fully synthetic oil, conventional oils break down quicker, requiring more frequent changes. The constant wear that oil endures breaks down the additives over time, releasing byproducts and various contaminants into the engine. Engine sludge, rust, and corrosion will develop and the oil will become less effective.
With synthetic oil, the base stock already has many of the performance advantages that the additives provide. Even when the oil starts to wear down, the base oil is still performing at a high level and can go longer without needing a change. Conventional oils don’t have that level of self-protection.
Is Conventional Oil Bad?
Fully synthetic oil is the focus of most new car designs, but conventional oil is by no means a bad product. It still offers the performance many engines need, and if you want to save on your oil change, conventional products can often be half the price of synthetic alternatives.
Although most cars benefit more from a switch to synthetic oils, many older cars with simpler engine designs will get better use with conventional oil.
When engines get over 75,000 miles, the wear and tear on the engine components increases. The viscosity of conventional oils makes them flow at a slower rate, which helps to lubricate and protect these older engines better than synthetics.
What Are Synthetic Blends?
Synthetic blend oils use a combination of synthetic and conventional bases. They have many of the advantages of synthetic oils while being less expensive. Cars that take synthetic oils can generally take synthetic blends as well, but the mileage between oil changes is lower with blends.
Which Oil Is Right For My Car?
Synthetic oil can help prolong the life of your car. Newer cars have smaller turbocharged engines, so it’s the clear choice for long-lasting performance. But before you opt for the most expensive oil, it’s crucial to check your manufacturer’s recommendations to choose the right product.
Both conventional and synthetic oils have a wide variety of available additives. That means you can get better performance where you need it.
Choose an oil that matches your driving style and environment. For example, if you drive on the highway regularly in cold weather, use synthetic oil that maintains its viscosity at low temperatures. In many cases, if you find an oil that offers an equal blend of performance and protection additives, it’s a safe investment for any conditions.
Get the Best Performance with the Right Oil
There are no bad motor oils on the market, but there are certainly better oils. Taking the time to understand your car’s needs and find the right oil will save you time and money in the long run. You’ll have fewer engine issues to contend with, and you can enjoy your ride for as long as possible.
If you’re still unsure whether full synthetic oil is ideal for your car, our team at ATL Columbus is here to help. Contact us for information on choosing the right solution, or stop in for an oil change today.